NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- High school graduation is a major step for most people, with higher education or the workforce waiting for them on the other side of it. For one group of students, graduation is an especially huge milestone.

Joshua Minggia and his classmates finished classes to receive their GED. Many of them didn’t know if they would make it this far.

“I’m going to college next month, I’m going to be staying on campus, I’m going to be doing stuff that kids my age are doing that have their high school diploma,” said Minggia.

He and other students go to Calvary Revival Church to learn. Many of them drop their children off in the free childcare center next door.

“They’re going through the challenges of being single mothers, they don’t have the added burden or added worry of childcare,” said Cheryl Randolph, the director of the childcare center.

The program is part of the work of the House of Esther Organization. Rev. Janeen McBath and her husband founded it in 2001. They wanted to sell their home, but decided to use it for something more meaningful.

“One day I was folding clothes, looking out the window, and I just felt like the home needed to be given to women that were in need,” said McBath.

They began by turning their home into a place for teenage mothers in crisis pregnancy. Later, it became a safe place for homeless single mothers to live with their children.

“The girls needed an outlet to know that somebody loved them, that even the decision they made was a bad decision and that somebody still loved them and their child needed a chance,” said McBath.

Eventually, the home expanded to another campus which offers a GED program for young women and men. Some of them are young parents. Others just needed a second chance in a better learning environment.

The group helps the students find jobs, get their GED, and plan for a successful future.

For McBath, the mission is a personal one.

“I’m a product of the projects, and I felt there needed to be an opportunity for young women to find life outside their environment,” she said.

From humble beginnings, House of Esther has become a group offering hope and opportunity to those who otherwise wouldn’t have any.

“They got me to where I am now, and I thank them so much for that. God knows I do,” said Minggia.